Whispering Pines Trail – Tabernacle, NJ

Whispering Pines Trails– Wharton State Forest, Tabernacle, Burlington County, NJ
Distance –  5.6 miles total of trail (5.3 loop when I hiked it, avoiding the overlap).  Option for a 1.7 mile loop if taking just the White Trail.
Type – lolipop with a big loop and a bigger loop
Difficulty:  1 of 10

Website – Wharton State Forest
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – Forest and some swamp
Surface – Mostly sand

Trailhead – N 39° 50.818 W 074° 40.570

Note – trail can also be accessed via Friendship Creek Preserve, which the back section of trail crosses.

Directions – Intersection of Patty Bowker Road and Irick’s Causeway in Tabernacle, NJ

Parking – Room for half a dozen cars at the parking lot

Dog friendly? Yes
Stroller friendly? Would be tough, even with an offroad stroller
Benches? No
Facilities?: No facilities

Markings – Painted blazes and plastic posts

Map – https://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/maps/WhisperingPines_Trail.pdf

Description –

Last year, Wharton State Forest opened up two brand new trails – the 1808 Trail/Sand and Water Trails and Whispering Pines.  Due to my top secret mission for a secret government agency writing that book, I took a loooooooong time to get to Whispering Pines.  The more time went on and the more folks posted about it in the South Jersey Trails Facebook group, the sadder I got that I hadn’t been yet.

But all of that was rectified on Monday when I took the drive out to the pine barrens to surely get a ton of ticks and chiggers check out this trail! (Serious note – ticks and chiggers can be a MAJOR problem during the summer months here.  A liberal coating of bug spray and some dumb luck, but I did walk away from this one tick and chigger free!)

At the start of the trail, it was bugging me… parking at the end of Irick’s Causeway… until I worked out that I’d hiked the Friendship Creek Preserve at the OTHER end of Irick’s Causeway, which this trail would cross for a very short time.  Anyway, I exited the parking lot through the gap in the fence, made the turn between the information signs, and headed down the stick of the “lollipop” for this trail.

After about 0.1 of a mile, the trail will split.  Either way will take you on the Atlantic White Cedar Trail, which makes a 1 1/2 mile loop.  Being the kind of crazy, adventurous guy that I am, I chose left!  The trail

Crazy mushroom time of year.
Love love love Atlantic white cedars.
Which is good, because there were more of them.
I can almost smell this photo.
Trail was looking fairly clear for August growth, save a few grassy spots along the way.
Jersey ironstone?
Trail branched in a few spots, but convenient “don’t go that way” stick piles made it easy.
Say the cedars will never end?
Sadly, they will.
Coming up to the end.

0.8 of a mile in, there is a choice to be made, as you reach the blue blazed Whispering Pines Trail.

A right turn will take you where the blue and white blazes overlap, along the shorter 1.7 mile almost-loop of the white trail.  Left will take you onto the 3.9 mile loop of the Whispering Pines Trail.  Well, the day was hot and getting hotter, and there was an EXCELLENT chance of picking up ticks and chiggers, so I of course chose the long way.  If this blog is full of one thing, it’s me making poor choices!

That’s a huge lie, choosing the long way was a great choice.  The cedars quickly faded away, replaced by the endless sea of pitch pines that are a warm blanket to my soul (Note to self – I’m writing about my soul in blog posts, our second decade is taking a strange turn).  Sure, their stunted scraggily trunks might be ugly, but I’m far from a perfect 10 myself little trees.  (Note to self – definitely a weird turn).  I was without my little adventure buddies today, which means my hike was interrupted only to take pictures of sweet pepperbush, to snack on some late blueberries, or to try to figure out where the rustling of the fence lizards was coming from.  For the record, think I heard three lizards, but only managed to spot one of them.

Sweet pepperbush. The dried remains after the flowers look like peppercorns.

 

Touch of Fall? I don’t think so, too hot and humid.
Through the bushes.
Edge of the preserve – no trespassing! I won’t, too much to see on the trail.
Small clearings.
I love pitch pines.
Finally caught a glimpse (and even a picture) of one!

At 2.3 miles into the hike, the trail meets the dirt Irick’s Causeway Road.  Here, the trail turns left and follows the road for a spell before leaving the road to the right.

Nice and wide.
Bye bye road.

Once you leave the road, the trail will wander into the Friendship Creek Preserve and you’ll spot Rancocas Conservancy signs on the the trees.  There are some leftover yellow blazes, but stick with the blue blazes of the Whispering Pines Trail.



The trail will curve around and leave Friendship Creek Preserve pretty quickly.  The trails on this side becomes hemmed in by bushes, some of which have a tasty snack. The trail eventually leads to another old dirt road, which you’ll make right turn on at around the 4 mile mark of the hike.




Turning right onto the dirt road.

The road is a straight shot for a while.  Incidentally, its the only place I really struggled with pine flies at all, but this may have been dumb luck.

A right turn will take you off of this road.

After a short stretch, the blue trail will rejoin the white trail at around mile 4.8.  At the conjunction, you’ll turn left onto the white trail, avoiding the duel blazes (this is the other end of the overlap we skipped earlier).

After the turn.
Trails join together, turn left here.
See white blazes only? You did the right thing!

You’re in the home stretch now.  The white blazes will go for another 0.4 of a mile, cross a small road, and then reach the first junction we saw.  Turn left here to backtrack on the stick of the “lollipop”.




Crossing the road.
Just after the road is the trail junction. Turn left onto the “lollipop stick” that you started on.

Just 0.1 a mile down the trail, you’ll get back to your car.

I said YOUR car! That’s MY car!
Also, I can’t believe other folks were out here hiking.

Nearby:

As previously state, a small section of Friendship Creek Preserve is part of this loop.  The Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve is also nearby.

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